SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) announced today the 10 Regional Teachers of the Year who are now in the running for the 2021 Illinois Teacher of the Year – the state’s highest honor for exemplary educators. ISBE also named its Outstanding Early Career Educator and its first-ever Bilingual Teacher of the Year, Early Childhood Teacher of the Year, and Special Education Teacher of the Year. ISBE created these three new honors to celebrate the teachers who serve an exceptional role in achieving educational equity for Illinois students.
“Receiving a Teacher of the Year award has taken on new meaning in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our educators have surmounted radical shifts in how they teach and connect with students,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “Illinois’ Teachers of the Year helped to lead their communities through crisis. They shine as beacons of hope and stability in the lives of Illinois students and families. They went to extraordinary lengths to care for the mental, physical, as well as academic, well-being of their students. I thank and congratulate each educator for their incredible service.”
The recipients of the inaugural Bilingual Teacher of the Year, Early Childhood Teacher of the Year, and Special Education Teacher of the Year awards are:
- Bilingual – Veronica Rodriguez of Juliette Low Elementary in Community Consolidated School District 59 in Elk Grove Village.
- Early Childhood – Kimberly Engelman of Eunice Smith Elementary in Alton Community School District 11.
- Special Education – Katie McGarvey of Hoffman Estates High School in Township High School District 211.
The 10 Regional Teachers of the Year, who are now finalists for the 2021 Illinois Teacher of the Year, are:
- Northwest - Aaron Sitze, a high school social entrepreneurship teacher at Oregon High School in Oregon Community Unit School District 220 in Oregon.
- North Suburbs - Kathleen Duffy, a high school social studies teacher at Barrington High School in Barrington Community Unit School District 220 in Barrington.
- Cook County - Traci Krueger, an elementary school teacher at John Mills Elementary School in Elmwood Park Community Unit School District 401 in Elmwood Park.
- Cook County - Precious Allen, an elementary school teacher at Betty Shabazz International Charter School in Chicago.
- Cook County - Justin Johnson, a high school band teacher at Niles West High School in Niles Township High School District 219 in Skokie.
- South Suburbs - Aimee Park, a high school science teacher at Lisle Junior High School in Lisle Community Unit School District 202 in Lisle.
- West Central - Marricea Page, an elementary school teacher at Dr. Maude A Sanders Primary School in Peoria School District 150 in Peoria.
- East Central - Brandon Thornton, a special education teacher at Bloomington High School in Bloomington School District 87 in Bloomington.
- Southwest - Jennifer Bhooshan, an elementary music teacher at Maryville Elementary School in Collinsville Community Unit School District 10 in Collinsville.
- Southeast - Jonna Piercy, an elementary school teacher at Spring Garden Elementary School in Spring Garden Community Consolidated School District 178 in Mount Vernon.
In addition, ISBE named Kate Lee, a high school music teacher at Maine East High School in Maine Township High School District 207 in Park Ridge, the 2021 Outstanding Early Career Educator. ISBE gives this award to a teacher with one to four years of teaching experience.
A committee of administrators, teachers, educational service personnel, student support personnel, and past Illinois Teachers of the Year selected the 10 Regional Teachers of the Year from 102 nominations across the state. State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala will select the 2021 Illinois Teacher of the Year from these 10 finalists. The Illinois Teacher of the Year will represent Illinois in the Council of Chief State School Officers’ National Teacher of the Year Program.
ISBE will recognize all its Teacher of the Year awardees and announce the 2021 Illinois Teacher of the Year virtually during its Board meeting on Oct. 21. This year’s Those Who Excel awardees will be announced in the coming weeks. For more information about ISBE’s Those Who Excel program, visit www.isbe.net/thosewhoexcel